When can I resume sex after childbirth?

I am about to deliver soon and I feel already anxious about resuming sex after childbirth. Will it be painful? and most importantly, when is the best time to make love again?

Sarah, 26 y.o.

Dr Sandrine answers:

If a gentle and tender sexual life is maintained till the end of the pregnancy, the couple has more chances to recover it after the birth. However, young moms have to cope with time and should not precipitate. A first bad experience can hinder the good progress of the resumption of a fulfilling sexuality. In the days and weeks which follow the birth, the young mother is focused on her baby. Her partner obviously plays an important role but often more as father than as lover. To reintroduce him into intimacy it is necessary to keep for him a different, privileged place apart from the child.

The erotic life in a couple must not be a duty. Escapades, « you and me » culture, massages, sweet caresses, playful atmosphere, sharing feelings and pleasures, are advised if the couple want to rebuild its erotic culture. In other words, it is necessary to « steal » some moments to the baby, to be together and find a new intimacy in a private space for the couple. This contributes to prepare slowly but certainly the return of sexuality, when the woman will feel ready physically and psychically in a climate of agreement and mutual respect.

Sexuality can start again as soon as the couple wishes it and as soon as all the regions will have recovered a normal aspect: a well closed cervix, disappearance of lochia (serosanguineous drainages after the childbirth); disappearance of pains and a good cicatrisation of the episiotomy (5 to15 days or so). This period is variable from a woman to the other; the average is approximately of one month.

One should not forget the use of contraceptives, since a new pregnancy is indeed possible before the return of menses even if the woman is breast-feeding.

At this stage, lubrication is sometimes less intense and longer to occur; the use of lubricants is then recommended and is not abnormal. If the feeding disturbs the sexuality, the spouse should not settle a rivalry between the child and the father, but could substitute for a moment this erotic zone by another one, and get back to it later… The vagina, even if it has been distended during the childbirth, quickly gets back to its normal shape and elasticity. The perineal reeducation will strengthen the muscle structure around the vagina. Statistically, the sexuality starts again for the majority of the couples seven weeks after the childbirth.